So, you might have heard that a little movie called Guardians of the Galaxy came out last weekend. And that it received rave reviews (92% fresh on the tomatometer), and obliterated box office records with its $94+ million opening weekend.
It’s a hilarious, entertaining and unexpected movie that deserves all the praise (and revenue). So, inspired by that film and Peter Quill’s awesome mixed tapes, here’s a reading playlist of books and graphic novels you might want to check out if you were a fan of the Guardians.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1: Legacy by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning. Although you probably really do want to start off with the Annihilation arc (which introduces many of the main villains and characters in the film), if you just want to dive into the fun with the formation of the team, you’ll want to begin with Legacy. Want a more comprehensive timeline? This guide is for you.
Hero by Perry Moore. When people say that there aren’t any great original superhero novels out there, give them a copy of Perry Moore’s Hero. This is the story of 16-year-old superhero-in-training Thom Creed, who struggles with the legacy of his disgraced ex-hero father, and his own sexuality (Thom is gay, and must hide that fact from his very traditional, homophobic father). It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking book about growing up and self-acceptance, and a damn great superhero arc to boot.
Vicious by V.E. Schwab. College roommates Victor and Eli are the best of friends and the worst of friends. Victor is cool and antisocial, wielding his intelligence as a weapon to cut others down; Eli is warm, handsome charm, inviting and friendly to all. Both, however, are brilliant scientists and intellectual equals who push each other to the brink—together, the two unlock their own latent superpowers. And that’s where everything goes wrong. Vicious is a tragic, engrossing tale of two deeply flawed, hubris-filled best friends-turned-Xavier/Magneto-style enemies and I cannot recommend it enough.
X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont & John Byrne. Because obviously we have to talk about the other really big superhero franchise to land this summer, right? The graphic novel of the same name contains the arc that inspired the film—a dystopian future 2013, in which hatred and discrimination has led to the rise of the sentinels and near extinction of mutants. Note that the graphic novel contains a bunch of differences from the film (most notably Kitty Pryde’s starring role in the comic versus itty-bitty support role in the film) which has been a divisive point in X-Men fandom.
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi. Balsa is a whole different kind of superhero, but her lone gunslinger with a heart of gold fits perfectly with the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai type feel that Guardians of the Galaxy has going on. Moribito is a Japanese novel (turned manga, turned anime series) about a traveling bodyguard who reluctantly agrees to help protect a crown prince and saves an entire world by doing so.
Sidekicked and Minion by John David Anderson. Don’t let the cutesy covers fool you—these middle-grade superhero novels deal with some seriously hefty issues. The first book, Sidekicked, is told from the perspective of a superhero sidekick in training; the second, Minion, is the tale of a young man raised by a supervillain mad scientist of a father. Both books explore the blurred lines between good and evil but never become reductive or didactic.
Zero Sum Game by SL Huang. A self-published novel from SL Huang, Zero Sum Game is the story of Cas Russell—a superhero whose superpower is vector calculus. Seriously. Cas is a mercenary, an unreliable narrator and a bonafide badass. You want a different kind of superhero? Give Zero Sum Game a shot.
Dangerous by Shannon Hale. The newest novel from renowned YA/MG fantasy author Shannon Hale, Dangerous is a departure from the fairy-tale retelling you were expecting. Dangerous feels like three novels rolled into one: 1. The story about a disabled young woman who wins a bid to an exclusive astronaut camp; 2. The story of that brilliant young woman as she and her fellow teammates acquire superpowers, and are set against each other by the adult scientists who wish to control them; 3. The story of an alien invasion, and the one girl who can save the world from annihilation. Although it’s a lot of ground to cover in a single book, Hale pulls it off successfully (for the most part). Audacious and a lot of fun, Dangerous certainly deserves a spot on any Star-Lord’s reading list.
Saga (Volumes 1-3) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. Last but certainly not least: If you’re a science fiction or fantasy fan looking for a nonsuperhero comic book to try, look no further. Saga is the story of star-crossed lovers Elena and Marko, who look to escape the war between their respective people and raise their child in peace. Relentlessly imaginative and gorgeously illustrated (Fiona Staples’ art is truly marvelous), Saga is one of the best ongoing books out there—plus it has a cat that can detect when people are lying. Everyone loves Lying Cat.
So there you have it: our own Star-Lord inspired Super Awesome Playlist. Are there any other books or comics on your own reading lists you’d care to share?